Melissa Begg Wins ASPPH/Pfizer Teaching Award

October 18, 2013

Vice Dean for Education Melissa Begg, ScD has been named the 2013 recipient of the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH)/Pfizer Award for Teaching Excellence. The prestigious award recognizes a graduate public health faculty member who is “outstanding in teaching and mentoring students toward distinction in public health research, teaching, and practice.”

A national panel of public health scholars selected Dean Begg for the honor, which will be presented on November 3 at a plenary session of the annual meeting of the ASPPH.

Melissa Begg, ScD, Vice Dean of Education

“I am absolutely thrilled. Dean Begg couldn’t be more deserving of this extraordinary national award,” says Dean Linda P. Fried, MD, MPH. “It is a testament not only to Dean Begg’s track record of both outstanding teaching and mentoring, but to her crucial leadership role in implementing our new MPH curriculum, which debuted last year as the first of its kind in the nation, and in leading the School’s academic programs.”

Says Dean Begg, “I am extraordinarily grateful and so very humbled to receive this award. There is no role more important or more sustaining to me in my professional life than my role as a teacher. I am deeply thankful to the selection committee, Roger Vaughan for nominating me, and my amazing Columbia colleagues and students for their support.”

The ASPPH/Pfizer award is the second major teaching honor for the School this year. In April, Roger Vaughan, DrPH, vice dean for Academic Advancement and interim chair of Biostatistics, won this year’s Outstanding Teaching Award from the American Statistical Society.  

“Taken together, these awards are a validation of our School’s commitment to equipping students to address the urgent public health needs of the 21st Century,” says Dean Fried. “Teaching excellence is a cornerstone of our School’s mission, and we have an outstanding curriculum taught by an outstanding faculty.”

Dean Begg has taught at the Mailman School since 1990. Currently, she is one of two lead instructors in the Quantitative Foundations class, one of the pillars of the new MPH core curriculum, which this fall celebrates its one-year anniversary. In addition, Dean Begg has overseen the implementation of the new MPH and has conducted research to measure its effectiveness. She also helped orchestrate a high-profile conference on innovations in public health education at the Mailman School this past summer. Over the years, she has developed several courses in biostatistics, including on patient-oriented research, applied regression analysis, clinical research methods, writing a successful NIH grant application, building interdisciplinary research models, and on the cultures of health, illness, and health care.

The ASPPH/Pfizer award is only the most recent recognition of Dean Begg’s outstanding contributions to the Mailman School and beyond. Just this past May, she was selected for the Dean’s Excellence in Leadership award, which  recognized her leadership in implementing the School's new curriculum. Among the many other accolades she has earned throughout her career are induction into the University’s Glenda Garvey Teaching Academy in 2005; winning the University-wide Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching and the Mailman School Teaching Award from the Graduating Class in 2006; election to the ASPH/Pfizer Public Health Academy of Distinguished Teachers in 2007; and, in 2008, election to the Board of the Association for Clinical Research Training. More recently, she was elected as a Fellow of the American Statistical Association (ASA) and is the inaugural recipient of the Lagakos Distinguished Alumni Award from the Department of Biostatistics at the Harvard School of Public Health.

In addition to her teaching excellence and leadership as Vice Dean, Dean Begg is a productive researcher. Her research areas of focus include advancing interdisciplinary science, training, and mentorship; clinical research education; and statistical methods in psychiatry and oral health. In 2006, she became the co-director of Columbia’s NIH-funded Clinical and Translational Science Award program and leads its educational and career development initiatives. Additionally, she leads two NIH-funded career development programs to promote diversity: one aimed at college undergraduates, introducing them to careers in the public health sciences; and one aimed at diverse junior faculty, providing grant-writing advice, career support, and mentorship. A third NIH-funded career development program offers mentorship in comparative effectiveness research methods to junior and mid-level faculty.